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How To Keep Wax Worms Alive?

How To Keep Wax Worms Alive?

Many anglers prefer to buy their live bait in bulk and save what they don’t use for their next fishing trip. This is a great idea, but there’s one thing that can complicate it: how do you keep the bait alive until your next trip?

Wax worms, in particular, are a favorite bait type for many ice anglers. The problem is, they can die if they are kept at temperatures that are too cold or too warm.

Luckily, there are ways you can keep your wax worms alive until your next trip out onto the ice. We’ll discuss several of these methods in this article, so keep reading to find out more!

1. Allow Them to Breathe

Wax worms that are sold as bait do not need to be fed, but they do need to be able to breathe.

Think about it; if you have an airtight container packed full of wax worms, the air inside the container is eventually going to get stagnant. The air will become increasingly noxious as the worms in the container begin dying.

to keep wax worm alive

If you’re keeping your wax worms in an airtight container, poke small holes in the lid–small enough to keep the worms from escaping, but large enough to allow the air to circulate. You may also want to poke a few holes in the sides of the container, depending on how tall it is.

You could also place the wax worms in a container with a cloth secured over the top instead of a lid. This will allow air into the container and will prevent you from having to ruin your receptacle by poking holes in it.

However, you choose to do it, make sure your worms get enough air to keep them alive.

2. Keep Them Cool, Not Cold

to keep wax worm cool

Some people mistakenly store their wax worms at or near freezing, such as in a cold refrigerator or even the freezer.

The fact is, wax worms do need a cool environment to survive; but if they are stored at excessively cold temperatures, they will die.

It is recommended that you keep your wax worms at temperatures around 55 to 60 degrees F. This temperature will ensure they remain dormant for weeks, and it is warm enough to prevent them from freezing.

Keeping wax worms in a wine cooler or the door of a mild fridge will allow them to stay at this optimum temperature range.

3. Discard Dead Worms

to discard dead worms

Even if all the conditions are right for storing your wax worms, some of them will still die over time. Allowing dead worms to remain with the live ones may cause more worms to die.

Check your container of worms at least once every other day; checking them daily is even better. Dead wax worms will be black and easily recognizable against the creamy-white coloring of the live ones.

Whenever you find a dead wax worm, remove it immediately.

4. Avoid Direct Sunlight

avoid direct sunlight

If you are storing your wax worms in the basement, make sure they are nowhere close to a window, especially a southern-facing window where they will receive abundant sunshine every day.

Even when you are out fishing, it’s important to keep your bait in the dark. Some light will not hurt them, but direct sunlight can overheat their bodies in a short period, causing them to die quicker.

This may not be something you think of, especially when you’re ice fishing, so you may want to make an extra effort to keep it in mind. Take a cooler or some other dark, insulated container to keep your bait in, such as this product from Arctic Zone .

5. Store Them in a Large Enough Container

to store wax worm in a large container

Wax worms are often sold in small, round, plastic containers. If you fish a lot, you may have a bunch of these empty containers laying around your house.

If you have plenty of leftover wax worms after buying a large amount in bulk, you may be tempted to throw them all in one of those small round containers. But if you have too many wax worms pressed together in a container, they will die off more quickly.

Make sure to store the wax worms in a container that is large enough to hold them all, or in multiple smaller containers. Not only do they need air holes in their containers, but they need room to breathe as well.

Keeping fewer numbers of wax worms in larger containers can significantly extend their life, ensuring the money you spent buying bulk doesn’t go to waste.

6. Keep Them Dry

to keep wax worm dry

A dry environment is essential to preserving your wax worms and keeping them alive. If moisture gets inside their container, it can cause them to die sooner and will also cause their bodies to decompose more quickly.

If you are storing your wax worms in the fridge, use a desiccant dehumidifier or an open box of baking soda to absorb excess moisture. Check your wax worms frequently; if the bedding is beginning to feel moist or wet, replace it immediately.

If storing them in another cool location, such as a basement or cellar, make sure to control the humidity in these environments as well. The more humidity you can remove from the air, the better because this will help keep your wax worms drier for longer.

7. Change Bedding as Needed

change bedding as needed

When you buy wax worms, you’ll notice an earth-looking bedding in the bottom of the container. If you plan to keep your wax worms for a long period of time, you may need to change out this bedding from time to time to keep it fresh and dry.

You can purchase wax worm bedding online or learn to make your own at home as the video following:

How to make wax worm food/bedding.

By following these seven tips, you should be able to keep your wax worms alive for several weeks.

That way, you can buy a large amount in bulk and use them again and again over multiple fishing trips. Happy fishing, and stay safe out there!


Tuesday 14th of February 2023

Great article, I do have a question though. Is there any evidence that a dead wax worm will cause more to die? I have sorted and sold bait for about 5 years now and my observations seem to be that it is more based on how long they sit than dead ones in the container. (Like the same batch starts dying at the same time regardless of which containers they are in). Genuinely curious because I have heard that thought before that one will cause more to die, but have never really seen any evidence that it is true.